You may not know this but Montreal has a pretty impressive set of underground caves right in the middle of the city. At the center of Park Pie IX in St-Leonard lies the entrance to the Cavernicole Cave, a historic site that was first discovered in 1812.
During the rebellion of 1837 the cave was used to store weapons as well as a hiding place for patriot soldiers. The cave was later almost completely forgotten about until 1949 when an article on the cave appeared in the Journal La Patrie. The cave was deemed a safety hazard that needed to be fenced off. It remained obstructed from 1968 until about 1978 when the Quebec Speleology Society opened it back up so that it could be studied. Since then the site has been designated as a historic landmark and a tourist attraction.
About 3,000 people visit the cave every year and you can too! The cave features a large 40 meter entrance that leads to an open area. The room gets gradually smaller as you venture in deeper which then leads to even more underground passages.
Why You Need To Go: The island on the river near Quebec City is famous for its colonial villages, orchards, artist shops and views of the surrounding landscape.
The scenic Chemin Royal, which circles the island, takes about an hour to drive non-stop, but there are plenty of irresistible adventure opportunities along the way, like the Seigneurie de l’Île d’Orléans, which is scheduled to open in mid-June.
Distance from Montreal: Roughly 50 minutes to one hour and 20 minutes, depending on your starting point
Why You Need To Go: La route des vins in the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi in the Eastern Townships includes four different scenic routes passing a total of 20 vineyards and multiple restaurants, according to its website.
Distance from Montreal: Two hours (to the town centre)
Why You Need To Go: This little tourist destination has a lot going for it, including the Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook with its 169-metre-long suspended footbridge and the enchanted Foresta Lumina light installation.
Not to mention that Coaticook is home to the famous Laiterie de Coaticook ice cream shop.
Why You Need To Go: This regional tourist hotspot at the tip of Lake Champlain has public beaches, a market and an art gallery all surrounding the Baie de Venise, which hosts water sports and boating activities.
Why You Need To Go: Another regional tourist spot, Magog has a lively downtown, hiking trails through the local Marais de la Rivière aux Cerises and, beginning in spring 2021, the new location of the super-popular Bleu Lavande lavender fields with their picturesque picnic spots.
Why You Need To Go: A little closer to home in Montreal's very own borough of Lachine, visitors can spend the whole day picnicking in the expansive Parc René-Lévesque with its whimsical sculpture garden and views of the river.
At issue is a proposal to run the REM de l'Est lines along rue Notre-Dame Est and boulevard René-Lévesque via an elevated track. The concerns of residents have been widely reported in the media.
Some — including, according to reports, Mayor Valérie Plante — have called for the line to run underground, instead, to minimize disruption along these corridors.
According to CDPQ Infra, however, it's not so easy.
A study (published in a February progress report) that evaluated six possible underground routes downtown identified several challenges the company called "fatal."
Current underground infrastructures like the metro and sewer lines not only pose construction challenges, CDPQ Infra found, but also serious threats to nearby structures.
In some scenarios, new underground tunnels could potentially pose a "risk of collapse" for neighbouring buildings, the study says.
According to Jean-Vincent Lacroix, communications director at CDPQ Infra, the "six underground insertion scenarios [proved] to be technically unviable in terms of physical constraints and identified critical risks."
What are the options for the future?
CDPQ Infra also studied the possibility of installing a tramway, instead, but argued in a December presentation that it wouldn't have the capacity, speed or flexibility necessary to meet the needs of riders and compete with other modes of transport.
As for next steps, the company plans to get more input from experts and the public on the design of the network.
This month, it's putting together an advisory committee whose mission "will be to make recommendations regarding the network’s architectural quality and its urban integration upstream of design," according to a February news release.
CDPQ Infra says the committee will be "made up of independent experts [...] from various fields including urban development, architecture, heritage, the arts and the business community."
"It's important to remember that the integration of the REM de l’Est must be exemplary in terms of urban integration and architecture, inspired by best practices from around the world," Lacroix said in a statement.
The company also tells MTL Blog that it plans to hold consultations between April and June with residents in communities that the REM de l'Est will cross.
When can we expect the REM de l'Est?
"Technical and environmental studies" are already underway, the news release states.
According to a timeline in the February progress report, the project will be submitted to the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement in "early 2022."
The BAPE will then issue an "environmental decree."
CDPQ Infra aims to break ground in 2023 and begin service in 2029.*
Peter St. Onge, Senior Fellow at the MEI, with Maria Lily Shaw, Economist at the MEI, published a report with Institut Economique de Montréal called "Second Time's the Harm: Repeated Lockdowns Risk Turning a Temporary Downturn into an Ongoing Depression" a day following the announcement.
Unemployment in Canada is at its "highest level since the Great Depression."
According to the report, at 13.7%, Canada is experiencing its highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
It is estimated that 90% of businesses have experienced a devastating drop in revenue, at an average of 70%, and have cut their staff by at least half.
10% of businesses have had to let go of their entire team altogether.
A survey released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) indicated that 70% of small businesses were worried about the second wave and possible lockdowns. 56% of them stated uncertainty of their ability to survive.
Dan Kelly, CFIB president, says that he received over 60,000 calls from business owners, with some expressing their fear of suicidal ideation should their business have to fold.
Overall, studies have shown that Canadians, in general, are feeling pessimistic about the state of the economy and don't see the end of this Depression-like period coming any time soon.
Extended lockdowns allegedly have a number of "dangers."
The report explains that economic analysis suggests that continuous and repeated lockdowns actually do more harm than good, despite the intention of using them to "save" these small businesses.
We're told that a one-time lockdown causes damage to overall wealth, but economic incentives remain high. However, ongoing or repeated lockdowns, even if with just a few restrictions, lead to small businesses operating with a sense of looming disaster, the report reveals.
In fact, St. Onge compares the state of small businesses across the country to a natural disaster and explains that the longer these lockdowns persist, the more impactful their damage.
The report doubts that lockdowns have many benefits in the long run.
Citing a study by Dominik A. Moser et al, St. Onge suggests that these lockdowns, despite trying to save people from dying of COVID-19, may actually be killing more people, due to the lockdowns' impact on substance abuse, overdose and suicide, among others. The report refers to this as the "disease of despair."
"We have long known that mass unemployment and poverty kill, and we should not lose sight of this when it comes to dealing with COVID-19," says St. Onge.
The researchers bring up the fact that Canadians have never experienced a lockdown of this size, so it is unknown the exact outcome of what it can do to the economy. However, over seven decades of empirical research into economic theory allow academics to say, with assurance, that lockdowns of any size can have significant negative effects on the economy and on society.
St. Onge finishes the report by posing the idea of ending lockdowns overall and, instead, putting resources to protecting vulnerable populations from the virus and from "costly and counterproductive policies."